BOSTON -- Outfielder Randy Arozarena returned to Tampa Bay's lineup on Tuesday night at Fenway Park, but the Rays lost another key player to the COVID-19-related injured list prior to their important three-game series against the Red Sox.
Tampa Bay placed left-hander Ryan Yarbrough on the COVID-19-related IL while reinstating Arozarena, who started in right field and went 2-for-4 with a walk in the Rays’ 8-4 win. That only accounted for half of the Rays’ transactions on Tuesday, as they also placed reliever DJ Johnson on the 10-day injured list with a right shoulder sprain and recalled reliever Louis Head from Triple-A Durham.
Yarbrough traveled with the Rays to Baltimore for their weekend series sweep against the Orioles. Manager Kevin Cash said Yarbrough is “fine” but not currently with the team in Boston.
“We probably should just wait for more updates in the coming days,” Cash said Tuesday afternoon.
Teams can’t disclose the details of players’ placement on the COVID IL without their permission, so it’s unclear if Yarbrough tested positive, has symptoms or is being sidelined (like Arozarena was) as a close contact of someone who did test positive. Thus, it’s not certain if Yarbrough -- Tampa Bay's innings leader, with 119 on the year, who had been scheduled to pitch Wednesday at Fenway Park -- will miss more than one outing.
“We don't know that much. I'd like to think that if we fill this turn and get through the rotation, we should be talking [about] having Yarbs back at that time,” Cash said. “But there's a lot to be learned here and then in the next few days.”
Having placed two prominent players on the COVID IL over the last week, Cash admitted there was concern but felt comfortable with the club’s testing and other health and safety procedures in place. The Rays are one of the teams with more than 85% of their Tier 1 personnel vaccinated against COVID-19. That includes Yarbrough, who was placed on the injured list for one day in May due to vaccination side effects.
“We've kind of already taken the necessary steps and tested everybody that we felt needed to be tested,” Cash said. “So far, so good.”
Rays adjust rotation
With Yarbrough no longer pitching Wednesday, the Rays bumped left-hander Josh Fleming up a day to take his place. Right-hander Drew Rasmussen will start the series finale on Thursday afternoon.
Fleming will be starting Wednesday night on six days’ rest, so he’s ready to pitch and taking the adjusted schedule in stride.
“That's just something I've always been able to do,” Fleming said, “adapt to whatever situation's needed, so it's really not a problem for me.”
Rasmussen has starting experience, has worked as an opener for the Rays and he built up his pitch count to 53 over 2 1/3 innings in Baltimore last Friday. The right-hander pitched three innings as an opener against Cleveland on July 24, so he is capable of handling multiple innings to start Thursday’s series finale. Left-hander Dietrich Enns, who started in Triple-A Durham, would be another option to provide length out of the bullpen on Thursday, if necessary, unless the Rays need him on Wednesday night.
“Hopefully it's just one turn around here, but [Yarbrough is] a guy that we've been trusting a lot every fifth day to take the ball and eat up a significant amount of innings for us. So that'll be missed,” catcher Mike Zunino said. “But I know we've got plenty of talent and plenty of arms that can hopefully bridge that gap and hopefully get him back sooner rather than later.”
Arozarena was sidelined for the Rays’ three-game series in Baltimore when he was placed on the COVID IL after being deemed a close contact. Upon his return Tuesday, Arozarena revealed that his wife and daughter tested positive for COVID-19 and said his wife, who is eight months pregnant, is still hospitalized.
Arozarena said through interpreter Manny Navarro that his wife was having trouble breathing and required oxygen, which led to her hospitalization, but added that she is “getting better every day,” and currently feeling good enough that he was comfortable rejoining the team. Arozarena said he did not have any symptoms of COVID-19 and said his daughter, who has since tested negative, is in good condition.
Tuesday night was the Fenway Park debut for starting pitcher Luis Patiño and starting shortstop Wander Franco, but they weren’t the only ones thrilled to see the historic ballpark for the first time.
Fleming, Head and Shane McClanahan took a trip inside the Green Monster on Tuesday afternoon, signing their names inside and taking photos peeking out through the scoreboard -- a rite of passage for any first-time visitor.
“Not what I was expecting. It's very old, very dirty,” Fleming said, laughing. “But I mean, just think of all the history and all the people that have been back there. It's fascinating, and it's pretty surreal going back there.”
Fleming said he sent a picture of the Green Monster to his wife, parents, agent and friends from home, who told him he had to leave his signature alongside the all-time greats who have ventured inside the Monster over the years.
“I knew it was a thing, but I didn't realize how big of a thing it actually was,” Fleming said. “Getting back there, it's like, 'Wow.' It's definitely just awesome.”